Pursuing a career in business administration is an attractive prospect for many graduating students and professionals looking to embark on their professional journey. After all, the field of business management offers unparalleled opportunities for advancement within the industry and immense potential to refine your skillset.
Students who study business administration often start with a bachelor’s degree. Based on their career development plan, they might go on to pursue a finance degree, accounting, or other related studies. They might also go for postgraduate studies, enrolling in a master’s and even a doctoral program. The core skills you will need to succeed in business administration include organizational skills, communication skills, problem-solving skills, financial management, and leadership skills.
Schools offering a business degree can have different specializations. What you choose to focus on will ultimately depend on your area of interest. Examples of specializations in business administration are Accounting, Human Resources, International Business, Marketing, Sales, and Finance.
In this guide, you will learn more about the advantages of studying business administration and the usual business administration careers most graduates pursue. Other sections cover how you can advance your career and what positions you can consider if ever you decide that you want to work in a different field but still be able to use the skills and knowledge you learned in business administration.
In the academic year 2018/2019, 390,564 graduates earned a bachelor’s degree in business, making it the top degree earned in the U.S. (NCES, 2020). The great thing about obtaining this degree is that there are many opportunities you can pursue depending on your specialization. It also helps that the degree programs that can help you prepare for a career in this field are offered in best value colleges across the country.
Business administration careers can be found in practically any company that needs professionals to help them manage the business. Whether your interest is financial management, marketing, human resources, or even information systems, your business skills and know-how can help you qualify for positions in these fields.
Since roles vary, core responsibilities will also depend on your job title. For example, if you work as an HR director, your duties will include recruiting and training personnel in your organization. Meanwhile, working as a finance manager entails overseeing the budget of your company and making sure that it stays in good financial health. If you get a position as a marketing manager, your core responsibilities will often include preparing and implementing marketing strategies based on data and trends collected by your team.
Research conducted by David Kim, F. Scot Markham, and Joseph Cangelosi also suggests some factors that led students to choose Business as a major. In their 2010 study published in the Journal of Education for Business, the researchers noted that among the reasons why students pursue a Business degree are the ability to succeed in the industry, the earning potential, and the available job prospects (Kim, Markham, &Cangelosi, 2010).
“Compared with other majors, a higher percentage of finance majors ranked projected earnings as more important, whereas general business and management majors placed greater emphasis on how their specialization would help them run their own business. Also, unlike other business majors, MIS/CIS majors were driven more by job prospects than by interest in the related work,” the researchers noted. This goes to show that business majors can look forward to a wide array of opportunities.
The study titled “Why Students Pursue the Business Degree: A Comparison of Business Majors Across Universities” also points out “that business students choose their major for other reasons besides job opportunities and good pay. Student interest in the nature of a job and “ability to succeed” are just as important.”
The career outlook for business administration is projected to grow by 5% from 2019 to 2029, which is faster than the average of 4% for all occupations (BLS, 2021). With the world now engaged in global business, more complex compliance rules need to be followed. As such, the demand for professionals who possess the right education and skills in business is also seen to increase.
The median business administration salary for occupations in this field was $72,250 in 2020. This is higher than the median for all occupations—$41,950. Some of the highest-paid job roles such as financial examiners, management analysts, and personal financial advisors have a median pay of more than $80,000. On the lower end of the salary brackets are the positions of fundraisers, human resource specialists, and tax collectors with median annual pay of $55,000-$65,000 (BLS, 2021).
|Point of Comparison||Traditional||Online|
|Format||In-person real-time classes||Mostly asynchronous, but can also be synchronous|
|Schedule||Set at the beginning of the term, limited flexibility||Asynchronous sessions offer more flexibility|
|Learning Experience||Focused on hands-on experience||May offer project-based learning or capstone projects|
|Pacing||May be taken full-time or part-time||May be taken full-time or part-time
|Flexibility||Limited flexibility on schedule, offers a bit of flexibility on electives||Materials can be consumed at one’s own pace; assignments and tests still to be taken at set time|
|Cost||$40,000 (on average)|
$100,000 (inclusive of living expenses and other costs)
|$37,000 to $91,000|
|Duration||Four years||Four years, but offers accelerated options|
Just like in any occupation, there are skills that you will need to succeed in business administration careers. The essential skills are those necessary to complete tasks related to the job such as using software or equipment, while general skills are not exclusive to your role but are traits or abilities like critical thinking and leadership.
With the skills mentioned above, it is clear that business administration professionals should not only have the technical know-how but also possess a number of soft skills if they want to succeed in the industry. This is supported by a 2019 study published in the e-Journal of Business Education & Scholarship of Teaching, Beatrice Avolio and her colleagues which outlines the graduate attributes of business education majors.
In the study titled “Global Challenges for Business Education and the New Educational Agenda: Graduate Attributes and Teaching Methods,” Avolio details that business education majors must learn leadership skills, gain a global perspective, and hone oral and communication skills, among others. However, not all universities are able to help students achieve this (Avolio, Benzaquen, & Pretell, 2019).
She posists that “business schools need to update the content of their business education in order to develop the students’ soft skills and encourage them to actively work in teams and discuss the business subjects based on the students’ work and professional experiences. Due to globalization, students expect more than just raw knowledge. They want an international experience in order to have a global outlook of businesses and have the opportunity to network.” Moreover, she concluded that “business schools would be well served by undertaking a review of their teaching methodologies in order to help the students acquire the business skills that are suitable for a radically evolving global economy.”
Meaning, until more schools are able to do so, students will have to do their best to pick up these skills through their coursework, through workplace interactions, and similar activities.
Many entry-level jobs related to business administration require a bachelor’s degree but there are also positions such as administrative assistants and bookkeeping clerks that may only require an associate’s degree or high school diploma. The requirements for enrolling in a bachelor’s or an associate program will vary depending on the educational institution but common requirements would include a specific minimum GPA, completing pre-college courses, and submitting personal statements and letters of recommendation.
Sales managers are tasked to lead their organization’s sales team. They are responsible for setting goals, developing training programs for their sales agents, and analyzing data related to their sales targets. Some of the daily tasks sales managers might handle include monitoring customer preferences, determining budgets, analyzing sales statistics, assigning territories to each team member, and setting sales quotas.
Median salary: $65,543
Bookkeeping, accounting, or auditing clerks are responsible for keeping track of and producing financial records for organizations. They accomplish this by using business tools, such as spreadsheets, databases, and accounting/bookkeeping software. Their daily tasks include recording cash flow and other financial transactions, updating account statements, and producing reports, such as income statements and balance sheets, among others.
Median salary: $37,461
Administrative assistants can also be referred to as secretaries. They perform routine clerical duties, such as taking business calls/returning calls, organizing files and references for both clients and employees, arranging appointments, etc. Their responsibilities are important for supporting the smooth flow of work in offices, small businesses, government agencies, and other types of organizations.
Median salary: $39,449
Loan officers evaluate loan applications either from individual clients or businesses. Their job responsibilities include collecting document requirements from loan applicants, verifying their details, and assessing whether they are qualified and have the capacity to pay back their loan. The work of a loan officer will also entail skills in customer service since they deal with different types of clients on a daily basis. It is also important for them to have technical skills in using underwriting software and other digital tools for processing loans.
Median salary: $50,017
Market research analysts collect and analyze data on consumers and markets to help their organization find the best marketing strategies for their products or services. They often need to present their research via market reports or presentations to colleagues and other stakeholders of the company. Their duties also include monitoring trends, competitors, and producing surveys and questionnaires for their company’s marketing objectives.
Median salary: $57,214
Human resources specialists are mainly tasked with the recruitment of workers for an organization or agency. They use a variety of methods to accomplish this task, such as interviewing applicants, finding candidates via social platforms and networking, or screening databases on job sites to shortlist and contact potential candidates for the position they need to fill. Human resource specialists must also be skilled in using technology tools in recruiting, such as benefits management platforms and Human Resource Management System (HRMS).
Median salary: $54,551
It is possible to get a job with just a certificate in business administration but you will have to search for companies that are willing to overlook the lack of a degree in favor of work experience and practical skills. Though many employers still believe that candidates with a degree are more “job-ready” as the culture is changing. For example, 37% of employers believe that an applicant’s experience is the most important qualification, not their education. And in large organizations, 44% believe the same (Harvard Business School, 2017).
Advancing your career in business administration is a combination of gaining years of work experience and continuing education. Most postgraduate programs in business administration require a related bachelor’s degree. For instance, a candidate who has a degree in International Business might be more qualified compared to someone with a degree in history.
Getting professional certificates can also have benefits to advance your career. There are literally hundreds of certificates available for a wide range of specialized skills. Popular ones include Agile certifications, project management certifications, online accounting certificate programs, and HR certifications.
Adjunct assistant professors in business administration usually teach part-time at community colleges, universities, and vocational schools. They can teach at multiple campuses and handle several courses. Apart from teaching business subjects to students, their duties can include developing course materials, evaluating students and advising them on their career goals, coordinating the academic projects of their school, and assisting other faculty members in creating/improving lesson plans. Adjunct assistant professors need to be knowledgeable in the subject they are teaching and have good communication and interpersonal skills since their job requires them to interact with students and faculty regularly.
Average pay per course: From less than $2,000 to more than $7,000
Financial managers take care of the overall financial health of organizations. Their expertise covers a wide range of areas, such as tax regulations, budgeting, and long-term financial planning. Depending on the type of organization they work for, financial managers may handle daily tasks, such as analyzing financial markets and data and presenting them to senior managers, preparing financial statements and forecasts, reviewing financial records of the company to reduce risk, and find other expansion opportunities.
Median salary: $98,818
Senior business analysts or management analysts advise organizations on how to improve their operations. Also known as management consultants, their duties include analyzing business systems and making recommendations on how the company can become more efficient or make its employees more productive. They also find ways how to reduce the operating costs of their client and increase revenues.
Median salary: $88,074
In the academic year 2018/2019, there were 3,636 business doctoral degrees awarded in the US, making it one of the top 10 doctoral degrees earned that school year. Most people who pursue a doctoral degree in business administration can advance their careers in a managerial or executive role. For individuals interested in academic work, a doctoral degree can help them advance their career as university professors.
Management consultants can work with both local and global businesses to help them address their most complex business and growth challenges. The specifics of their role can vary depending on the nature of the business of their clients but some of the most common responsibilities include delivering strategic plans and recommendations to senior executives/C-suites, managing client projects, building rapport and fostering good client relations, and devising systems to streamline workflows in the organization.
Median salary: $105,866
Postsecondary professors work full-time at colleges or universities. Their life in the academe is mostly dedicated to teaching courses and conducting original research. They can teach several subjects in business and might also serve as part of the university’s academic committees. Additionally, postsecondary professors or faculty might also supervise adjunct assistant professors and graduate teaching assistants.
The best business administration certificate will depend on your field of specialization. For example, if you specialized in finance management, obtaining finance certifications from recognized bodies, such as the Financial Management Association (FMA) can be a good addition to your resume. If you want to advance your skills in management, getting a professional certificate, such as the Professional Management Certification provided by the Institute of Certified Professional Managers (ICPM) can be an excellent choice. Other in-demand certifications include those in project management, business analysis, digital marketing, and leadership.
Business administration degree holders need not be limited to their field when plotting their career path. Their skills and knowledge are useful in other areas.
Operations research analysts help organizations solve problems by using a variety of mathematical and analytical methods. The job outlook for this role is projected to grow by 25% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations (BLS-Operations Research Analysts, 2021). Operations research analysts can work in sectors like logistics, healthcare, and manufacturing. Their most common duties include gathering data related to a problem or area they need to improve, using predictive modeling to analyze information and develop practical solutions, and writing reports explaining their findings.
Health services administrators are responsible for planning and coordinating medical and health services. This occupation is estimated to grow 32% from 2019 to 2029, making it a very in-demand job relative to other occupations with 4% growth for the same period (BLS-Medical and Health Services Managers, 2021). Health services administrators might involve managing an entire health facility or only a specific clinical area, department, or medical practice for a team of physicians. Some of the common tasks they do include managing patient fees and billing, preparing budgets to make sure departments operate within their funds, and creating work schedules for employees.
As discussed in this guide, business administration majors can actually enter a variety of fields related to business, finance, management, and communication. This is why there is no one right career path to take. It will all depend on your interest and area of specialization. There are also other factors to consider, such as the salary for a particular job role and where you see yourself working in the long term.
Furthermore, advancing your career in business administration will probably be a combination of accumulating actual work experience, pursuing postgraduate studies, and obtaining professional certificates, especially if you want to work in specialist roles, such as a PMO in project management. However, the lack of a degree should not discourage you from finding your dream job. All you have to do is find those companies that hire based on practical skills and work experience.